Multiple Cranial Neuropathies

Craig G. Carroll, D.O.; William W. Campbell, M.D., M.S.H.A.

Disclosures

Semin Neurol. 2009;29(1):53-65. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Patients presenting with multiple cranial neuropathies are not uncommon in neurologic clinical practice. The evaluation of these patients can often be overwhelming due to the vast and complicated etiologies as well as the potential for devastating neurologic outcomes. Dysfunction of the cranial nerves can occur anywhere in their course from intrinsic brainstem dysfunction to their peripheral courses. The focus of this review will be on the extramedullary causes of multiple cranial neuropathies as discussion of the brainstem syndromes is more relevant when considering intrinsic disorders of the brainstem. The goals are to provide the reader with an overview of those extramedullary conditions that have a predilection for causing multiple cranial nerve palsies. In turn, this will serve to provide a practical and systematic approach to allow for a more targeted diagnostic evaluation of this, often cumbersome, presentation.

Introduction

Evaluating the patient with multiple cranial neuropathies presents a unique challenge for the diagnostician. The differential diagnosis is broad and includes many life-threatening processes. Just as with any other neurologic presentation, the first step in the evaluation requires correct localization. Processes affecting multiple cranial nerves may involve intramedullary structures of the brainstem as well as their extramedullary course. The focus of this review will be on the extramedullary disorders affecting multiple cranial nerves.

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